January started out with a thud for me. Even though I was so ready to let 2020 go, the fresh start in 2021 did little to motivate me towards setting any new goals. I was in a rut.
Knowing that my early morning iPhone news reading habit which had started pre-election and spiraled out of control post Capitol siege was starting my day off on the wrong foot, I decided that needed to stop.
I’ve been longing for a more nourishing morning routine to start my day. I love how I feel when I journal, meditate, and exercise in the morning. Unfortunately, these foundational practices tend to fall by the wayside when I’m too busy, overwhelmed, or even just in a rut.
Exactly when I need these tools most, has been when I’m least likely to practice them. (Hence the downward spiral.)
What I’ve found is taking steps towards something that improves my health and wellbeing can help the gears start turning again. It helps to get started on something I know I can do, something within my control that truly feels good.
The “tiny habits methodology” created by behavioral scientist BJ Fogg (@tinyhabits.com) breaks down the science of habit formation into 3 simple steps. Using this method, I broke free of the news bingeing and replaced it with some healthy habits instead.
Habits have 3 parts: a trigger, the routine (the habit itself) and the reward. The stronger and more immediate the reward, the more likely you will repeat the habit.
That’s why we are addicted to our phones. The “reward” is immediate when you get a new text or “like” on social media. Unfortunately, even unproductive habits like obsessively checking the news, can form when the trigger (fear, anxiety, boredom) and the reward are both strong.
Watching the attempted Capitol siege on January 6, I was so anxious about the state of our democracy, that I repeatedly checked nytimes.com for updates to calm me down. Of course, the news I read did nothing to soothe my nerves. But that routine quickly became a habit I needed to break free from.
This was a perfect example of how putting attention on a situation where you feel powerless can zap your energy, make you feel depressed and even more helpless. In those times, it’s not easy to get into action and create change. So you just stay stuck, bogged down in bad habits, and the rut gets deeper.
So, there I was drained of energy and unable to feel enthusiasm for my goals. Thankfully, I remembered that my energy goes where I put my attention.
Getting out of the rut
To get out of this deep rut, I created 3 tiny and uplifting habits.
I used this simple recipe to form supportive, simple nourishing habits to help gain my power and motivation back.
In my journal I wrote:
After I _______, I will ________ and my reward is _________.
After I wake up (and feed the cat), I will make a 16 oz glass of hot water with lemon.
My reward: hydration, Vitamin C, gets my digestion moving, and it tastes and feels great!
After I make the hot water with lemon, I will get out my journal and meditation cushion.
My reward: I can journal while I sip my hot lemon water. I get to clear my head, feel grounded and grateful at the same time.
It’s important that the habit, “get out my journal and meditation cushion,” was just the very first step. It’s quick, easy and takes less than 10 seconds. If I only manage to do those two things, I get to celebrate myself with kudos and a pat on the back.
Once the journal and the cushion are out, of course I’m much more likely to write and then sit and breathe for a few minutes. Whereas, if the goal was to journal for 15 minutes and meditate for 30 minutes every day, I’d be much less likely to repeat it.
Each time I get the dopamine hit from completing my goal, I celebrate my mini success and feel motivated to do more. The wheels start turning, and the wagon starts to pull out of the rut.
Starting small helps form the habit. It’s not overnight magic, but it is medicine for the soul. And it works.
Showing up for myself during the morning routine gives me the inspiration to tackle harder things I need to do during the day with calm, ease and joy.
When I feel like the victim of my circumstances, I give my power over to the circumstances, and feel discouraged. It’s tough to create change from there.
When I slow down and tune in to my own inner wisdom, I know that I have the power to create my thoughts and actions. With that, I harness my own slow power and can confidently, with ease and joy, make the changes I need.